Pat Oldt has spent her career advocating for women and girls to have the same opportunities as men and boys.
When she served as superintendent of Northview Public Schools in the 1990s, Oldt commissioned the district's first Title IX audit, which showed inequities in girls and boys sports.
|Wendy Burns-Ardolino, left, and Pat Oldt are pictured in the DeVos Center.|
"I viewed athletics as an extension of the classroom, and many did not see it that way," Oldt said. "I used to ask people, 'What if your daughters didn't have textbooks in the classroom? How is that so different from not having equal access in athletics?'"
Oldt saw similar work when she joined Grand Valley in 2000 and served as vice president for Planning and Equity. She led a campus climate study and a Title IX audit that resolved inequities in salaries, scholarship opportunities and faculty/staff benefits.
"Changing culture and tradition is a very difficult thing to do," she said. "If you do it, you need to be prepared to keep moving."
She said growing up and attending public schools in the segregated South helped shape her beliefs about equity. “Being exposed to blatant discrimination against women and people of color convinced me that the only ‘equalizer’ that could make a difference is education,” she said.
Oldt is now a distinguished professor in the College of Education, and university/community liaison for Charter Schools.
When she talks about competing in triathlons, you wouldn't know that Wendy Burns-Ardolino is a relative newcomer to the sport.
Her first triathlon was in 2010. She's since completed many more, including the Michigan Titanium in Grand Rapids in late August.
"From the first one I did with a friend, I've loved the community of triathletes and the camaraderie at an event," said Burns-Ardolino, associate professor and chair of Liberal Studies.
Competing in triathlons fits nicely with the research Burns-Ardolino conducts: how their sport experiences affects women's views of their bodies. "Sports are a key way we learn what our bodies are capable of. It's the main reason I wanted to do triathlons. I know my body can do things, with proper training, that are pretty remarkable," she said.
She trains with a group, Real Women Tri, and finds resources, support and encouragement from its 100 members. The group has a Facebook page and Listserve for members to pose questions about a particular course, or discuss the latest athletic gear.
"The team really supports each other, and makes recommendations. It's sort of the feminist model of sharing and encouraging," she said.
Burns-Ardolino surrounds herself with a similar academic community. As a mentor, she said it's important to share information. It's perhaps a simple concept, but one she said is key to team building.
"I feel it's my responsibility as a peer to help others succeed, if I hold a piece of information that could help someone move forward, whether it's on publishing, or presenting at a conference, I'm going to help in any way I can," she said.
Page last modified September 13, 2013